Politics postsTuesday August 01, 2017
From “Behind the Crazy Headlines: Three Truths About the Trump Presidency” by John Cassidy:
If [new Chief of Staff, Gen. John] Kelly and the rest of Trump's staff can't restrain him—and it seems highly unlikely that they will be able to—the onus will eventually fall on Republicans in Congress, who, until now, have largely acted as the President's cheerleaders and enablers, but who ultimately hold the power to get rid of him. On the face of things, there isn't any reason to suppose that Republicans will grow backbones anytime soon. Trump is still following their conservative agenda, supporting their efforts to repeal Obamacare and cut taxes for the wealthy. Even if this weren't the case, the thought of confronting Trump's angry supporters in primary elections is enough to keep most G.O.P. congressmen and senators in line.
The three truths per the headline, btw?
- Conflict and chaos are chronic conditions for this White House.
- The Russia story will not go away.
- Trump remains a serious threat to American democracy.
An example of all three was yesterday's Washington Post story on how Pres. Trump dictated Don Jr.'s misleading statement on the June 9th meeting with various Russians at Trump towers. This would be a major scandal for any presidency. Here, it's another day in crazyville.
Via CSPAN, Mitch McConnell in defeat. Can someone make me a poster?
Here's a few key points to know about the so-called “skinny repeal” bill—repealing the individual and employer mandates of the Affordable Care Act, and possibly more down the line—that Mitch McConnell and the Republican party tried to ram down our throats last night/early this morning:
- They didn't finish writing it until lunch yesterday (Ben Terris, The Washington Post)
- McConnell's office didn't publish it until 10 p.m. yesterday (John Cassidy, The New Yorker)
- Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) still fillibustered the bill to prevent Democrats from speaking about it (Terris again)
This abomination of a legislative process didn't pass by only the barest of margins, 51-49, and only because, along with 46 Democrats, 2 independents, and the usual 2 Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska), John McCain voted thumbs down. Or one thumb down. He wasn't there for the initial vote, then sauntered in during the Ps, did the reverse Fonzie, and walked back to his seat. (Tierney Sneed, Talking Points Memo)
All the other Republicans? The supposedly sane voices like Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse? They went along. That's Paul Krugman's point in his column today. It's not just Trump, it's not just McConnell and Ryan; it's these so-called moderates, the aiders and abetters.
Meanwhile, over at New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan reminds us that this week also saw the president of the United States: 1) attack and malign his attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation that the president would like to obstruct; 2) turn a Boy Scout jamboree into a partisan “Trump Youth” rally; and 3) dismiss 15,000 trans soldiers from the military via tweet, with nary a word to the Pentagon. Today he's holding rallies before cops, urging them to not be gentle during arrests. Yesterday, or the day before, his new communications director told a reporter that the White House chief of staff “cock-blocked him,” said a senior POTUS advisor is “trying to suck his own cock,” and suggested using the FBI and DOJ to eliminate his enemies. He also suggested eliminating them as in killing them. Yes. The president's communications director.
So this isn't near to ending. The Republicans are hugely unpopular, but they're gerrymandering the shit out of districts, working to prevent (Democrats) voting, and in the face of an incompetent, corrupt administration, the right-wing propaganda machine just turns it up a notch. This morning, NPR did a piece on how, thanks to right-wing cable news and right-wing radio, Trump supporters think the Russian scandal is no scandal at all; that it's fake news:
When asked whether there was anything that would make them rethink the Russia story, the Bauchles said they would need to hear the news from someone they really trust, such as Limbaugh or Hannity.
On the plus side, some wag has backed McCain's thumbs-down moment with the soundtrack to a WWF “Stone Cold” Steve Austin sudden appearance and takedown. I like the camera closing in on McConnell, twisting. But in the long run it's stone cold comfort.
But we got today.
ADDENDUM: So I post, go to Twitter, and find out that while I was writing the above the president of the United States fired his communications director. Sorry, no, that would make too much sense. He fired his chief of staff, the guy his communications director was bitching about. So long, Reince. Start typing that tell-all book. Please.
The Skinny on the Skinny Repeal Bill
John Cassidy parses what Mitch McConnell is up to with his run-it-up-see-who-salutes approach to remaking the health insurance industry in America. Most the time, of course, a majority of senators don't salute (57 here, 55 there), but McConnell may be able to pass a “skinny repeal” bill that would remove the individual and employer mandates of Obamacare, and those are the things that help control costs.
Then there's this:
The other, even bigger, problem with the “skinny repeal” bill is that it likely won't be designed to be the final version of the Republican legislation. Practically everybody on Capitol Hill believes that McConnell is putting it forward as a ruse to toss the ball to a House-Senate conference, which could then come back with a much broader bill that would torpedo the insurance exchanges, roll back the Medicaid expansion, and get rid of the taxes on the rich.
I can't imagine what the soul of Mitch McConnell is like. Or the souls of the Republicans who keep voting for these abominations. That's the astonishing thing: the number of Republicans willing, wanting, chomping-at-the-bit to cut Medicaid in order to fund a tax break for the super-wealthy. This doesn't get enough attention. It deserves more. Drag it into the light. Drag them into the light.
An American Travesty, Worn with Pride
John Cassidy, New Yorker, “The Senate Health-Care Vote Is a Travesty,” before the Motion-to-Proceed vote yesterday:
When future historians look back on American governance during the early decades of the twenty-first century, they will have many tragic and troublesome episodes to dwell on: the hanging chads of Palm Beach County, the invasion of Iraq, the passage of the Patriot Act, the Citizens United ruling, the Republican-controlled Senate's refusal to grant Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, and the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent dumbing down and demeaning of the Presidency.
In this chronology, Tuesday's health-care vote may also figure prominently: it could well be remembered as a historic abuse of the legislative process that the Founders spent so much time and energy constructing. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is asking his colleagues to vote blindly and authorize consideration of a health-care-reform measure that could dramatically affect the welfare of tens of millions of Americans and shake up roughly a sixth of the U.S. economy. ...
It is a ludicrous situation, and one that makes a mockery of the idea of the Senate as a highfalutin deliberative body. No major bill in recent history has been railroaded through the upper chamber in such a manner—conceived of and written in secret, and subject to no markups or committee hearings. If McConnell were to succeed in getting some sort of bill passed, it would be a travesty.
About the only thing that can be said for the lawmakers who brought things to this juncture is that they have been pretty open about their intentions. Indeed, they appear to wear their cynicism with pride.
The motion to proceed passed. Now they're voting on all kinds of versions of a health care bill to see which one sticks. The GOP can do this because it has its own propaganda machine (Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, Rush, Alex Jones), and can spin this travesty as a victory.
'A Final Vote You'll Be Stuck With. Forever'
Yesterday sucked. The Republican party is awash in bastards and weak-kneed quislings. They're cowed by a bully who is despised around the world, and beloved only by toadies, racists and rich bastards.
Does the GOP have anyone worth a damn? Here's former U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-MN), who, the day before, in USA Today, urged Republican Senators to vote against the Motion to Proceed on Mitch McConnells' unknowable and immoral health care bill:
This week, the Senate once again is set to vote on a health care bill that will radically change how people get coverage and who can afford their care. But unlike normal times, Senators, you are being asked to approve a Motion to Proceed to a vote:
- Without knowing what will be in the bill you would vote on.
- Without knowing what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office will say about the impact of major amendments and the final bill on coverage and premiums.
- With full knowledge that the Senate parliamentarian, who rules on what can and can't be allowed in a budget bill, has said that the Senate must remove provisions intended to prevent an insurance market death spiral of sicker patients driving up costs.
- Without knowing the details of the secret state Medicaid waivers the Trump administration insists will make the bill work.
- Without knowing how your own state budget will be impacted.
- Without knowing how you will defend the provisions you will only learn about later, including the payoffs and other things that will be sneaked into the bill at the last minute.
- Without even knowing which bill you are being asked to vote on, what the defining amendments will be and how much time you will have when being pressed for a final vote you'll be stuck with. Forever.
They did it anyway. John McCain, rushed from the hospital where he was receiving medical treatment via taxpayer dollars, voted to approve a motion that might soon (today?) lead to medical treatment being taken away from tens of millions of taxpayers. Then he went on the Senate floor and lambasted the entire process ... which he'd just voted should proceed. This to aid a president who has shown him nothing but contempt. The mind reels.
On Facebook, Rick Perlstein quoted writer Scott Timberg, whose father, Robert, a Marine who was badly wounded in Vietnam, became McCain's first biographer:
My old man could never make sense of the Sarah Palin choice or his '08 campaign. ... 'How could a man who wouldn't let a Viet Cong jailer break him ... get broken by the Republican party?'
And again. Now the Senate is doing nothing but voting on shitty health care bills. They keep tossing them up and voting on them. I think of Cheney's line about how terrorists have to be right, or victorious, only once. That's the GOP with health care. The GOP is our terrorists.